“I’ve never seen another company honor the military as much as Disney does.” – Megan
The crew on the Disney Dream recently created some magic for Disney Cruise Line guests with deep connections to Disney and the U.S. Armed Forces. Check out this video for insight into the magic.
Read more about Megan’s family below, as well as hear from the crew who brought this moment to life for her family.
It started with Disney Cruise guest, Megan, who grew up with a love of Disney thanks to her family and the memories they have made over the years together at Disney parks and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. Her Disney affinity goes back to her grandfather, who was a cast member after retiring from the U.S. Air Force after 22 years. She shared there’s nothing quite like walking down Main Street, U.S.A. and smelling popcorn as a kid, then visiting Walt Disney World as an adult to relive the nostalgia of her childhood.
Following his military service, Megan’s grandfather began his Disney journey in merchandise at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and continued as a trainer with the international program students. He then landed his dream role driving the train at Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World!
The U.S. military service legacy also spans several generations in Megan’s family. “My grandfather always felt like he was recognized as an important member of the military and the Disney family,” Megan shared. “Something that Disney does really well, is highlighting our service members, whether they are active military or retired military. That’s something that is really special to our family because not only was my grandfather in the military; my dad was in the U.S. Navy for 10 years.”
Megan’s grandfather loved his time at Disney, making magic, handing out stickers to the children, trading pins and seeing families day in and day out. He always felt valued and celebrated both as a veteran and as a Disney cast member.
This past summer, Megan and her parents embarked on an adventure aboard the Disney Dream to see the Mediterranean, which sparked an idea. “My grandfather loved Disney but never got the opportunity to sail on Disney Cruise Line,” Megan shared.
After all her father’s many years sailing the ocean in the U.S. Navy, coupled with Megan’s grandfather’s love of Disney, Megan had the idea to surprise her dad by honoring his father’s military service and legacy, so Megan and her mom packed some of her grandfather’s challenge coins and took them to Europe.
“Challenge coins are a really important part of being in the military,” Megan explained. “You often get them when you are recognized for something you’ve done, whether it is from a higher rank than you or someone who is a peer. It’s almost a form of saying a job well done or going out of your way to help somebody else.”
This is where Lee, the Disney Dream cruise director, and Andy, the Disney Dream hotel director, stepped in to create an unforgettable memory for the family.
“Andy and I heard about this family history of Megan’s and how important it was for these coins to honor the legacy and heritage,” Lee said.
Lee and Andy were touched and inspired by Megan’s family, so they worked together to create a magical moment to honor Megan’s dad, grandfather, and their service.
On the last day of the sailing, Lee and Andy surprised the family by bringing back the beloved tradition of pin trading. The team presented Megan’s dad with exclusive Disney Cruise Line pins and accepted Megan’s grandfather’s challenge coins, which now live aboard the Disney Dream.
The touching moment nearly had everyone in tears. “It was so special seeing how excited and joyful my mom was and how overcome with emotion my dad was,” Megan said.
When asked how Lee and Andy came up with the moment, it was simple; it’s just what they do. They have both been with Disney Cruise Line over 10 years, and this “dream team” has worked together several years.
“We are the dynamic duo,” Andy said. “We get along so well. We’re both trying to achieve the common goal to provide that magical experience to our guests through the heart touching, caring connection, and engagement with them. We see opportunities just like this one every day and that’s what we’re here to do – to surprise and delight and create unique moments in time where guests can debark and remember those moments for the rest of their lives.”
“Sailing with Disney Cruise Line is so special,” said Megan. “We’ve sailed on all five Disney Cruise Line ships. Each one has their own personality, but what makes Disney Cruise Line stand out, are the crew on board.”
These interactions and memories don’t stop with Lee and Andy. It expands to all Disney Cruise Line crew. Megan and her family are repeat cruisers, so they have found their own family on board and enjoy seeing friendly faces when they cruise.
“The biggest difference is our crew,” Lee shared. “They are the heart and soul of not just the ships but the Disney product itself. Each and every one of them love to make those connections and that’s the real difference between us and the rest of the industry. Our crew members are the ones that go above and beyond every cruise.”
This memory is something Megan and her family will cherish years from now and is one of their favorite Disney Cruise Line memories.
“For my grandfather’s legacy to live on board the Disney Dream is really special,” Megan said. “When we step back on board, we are always greeted like old friends. Being reminded that my grandfather’s legacy is living on board as well, is really special.”